Guys I’m Watching–Update

Back in April, I blogged about some guys I’m watching. It’s time for an update.

Will Middlebrooks has been a fixture with the big club for quite a while now. He has played thirty-five games and more than held his own. It is conceivable that he is going to be sent down when–if–anyone is healthy but I rather doubt it. With Youkilis looking like–and more importantly, playing like–an old man, I think the Middlebrooks era is here to stay.

Jose Iglesias is on the disabled list and has been for three weeks. The question for him has been offense, and he has shown some strides there, putting up a .634 OPS so far this season, an improvement of 80 points over last year. It’s still pretty crappy, though. Still, there are encouraging signs. His walk rate is higher and his strikeout rate is lower. He has played forty-two games, 22 of them in April and 20 of them in May. In April he could do nothing right. He struck out sixteen times, walked eight, hit only one extra base hit, and put up an OPS of .485. In May his OPS was .790, hitting four extra base hits, including his first home run, and striking out only five times. Is that a real breakthrough or small sample size noise? We don’t know. And we won’t know until he can get back on the field. Still, there’s room to hope.

Ryan Lavarnway was reportedly told to make a special point to work on his defense this year. I have a hard time believing that because I would have assumed he’d been making a special point of working on his defense for most of the past three years. Whatever the cause, he started off the season relatively poorly before coming on a bit lately to push his OPS above .800. One wonders how much of his future is tied up in the body of David Ortiz. It seems like Lavarnway’s best role in the majors would be as a part time catcher, part time DH, and part time bat-off-the bench. As long as the Sox have David Ortiz at DH and Adrian Gonzalez at first base there is no room for DH at bats which means Lavarnway is either going to be a full time catcher or a minor league player. Sure, the Sox could let Ortiz go but with the likelihood that Youkilis is gone, that seems terribly unlikely.

Ryan Kalish returned from injury and had a successful rehab assignment culminating in a nine game stint at Pawtucket where he absolutely clobbered the ball. He came up to the majors just recently when Ryan Sweeney went on the DL and became the thirteenth outfielder used by the Sox this season. That doesn’t include Carl Crawford. I think he’s here to stay. It’s put-up-or-shut-up time in his career. He has now spent parts (if small ones) of three seasons at Pawtucket. The Sox outfield routinely has Adrian Gonzalez in it and that is not a good thing. Here’s his opportunity.

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Guys I’m Watching

With the major league club performing like an execrable shitshow, it’s time to turn to the minors.

There is the potential, at least, to turn over a sizeable chunk of the major league roster this off season if the right guys in AAA do well.  We have a DH and third baseman who are aging, a shortstop and catcher who are meh, a platoon in right field, and potential solutions at AAA.

Will Middlebrooks is considered by most to be the Sox best prospect. He’s off to a torrid start at Pawtucket and if he has an excellent year he could step into a big role on the 2013 team. I don’t think most people would consider his bat a difference maker so it’s not like he’s going to take us over the top to a championship but if things work out he should be good enough that we aren’t screaming for a replacement.

Ryan Lavarnway has a chance to be an excellent offensive force but really only if he sticks at catcher. If he’s anything else he likely won’t be enough of a hitter to be anything special.

The talk of Jose Iglesias making the 2012 roster out of spring training was just ludicrous. He’d be an automatic out in the majors at this point considering he was almost an automatic out in AAA. In fourteen games at AAA so far this season he’s got an OPS of .593 which is terribad but if  you knock off the first four games it’s a .729 OPS, and one that is OBP heavy. He’s got 7 walks in those fourteen games compared to 21 in a hundred games last year. If he can keep the OBP up then he can be a tremendous asset.

Ryan Kalish is on the DL and will be for a while so his only job is to get healthy. He’s pretty much at the age and stage of development where if he doesn’t make the big club in 2013 it’s probably not going to happen.

I haven’t said anything remarkable here. I don’t pretend to be an intense follower of the minors and I’m certainly not collecting scouting reports and projecting talent but these are the guys I’m keeping my eye on in the relative short term.